11/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Call to Citizenship

Today, September 17th is Citizenship Day. And boy, do some of our citizens need a refresher on civics.

If the health care debate has been a test of American citizenship, then, we have failed that test. We've failed not only by not living up to minimal standards of civility and rationality, but we've simply not lived up to our own values of shared sacrifice and shared responsibility.

We can move past this kind of demagoguery. We can start doing that today. We can start by advocating for the type of politics we all want: a government responsive to an informed and educated citizenry, not a government sold to the highest corporate bidder or bowing to the ramblings of irrational mobs. This is the goal of "Unity in Movement: Citizenship Day Mobilization 2009," an event organized by various community organizations: fulfilling our civic duties to ensure a future that works for all of us.

Hundreds of Americans are coming to Washington, DC to promote the best of civic engagement: respectful dialogue on the pressing issues of the day and to urge their elected officials to work for the good of all Americans, not industry giants and their lobbyists.

The citizenship activities on this day stand in sharp contrast to the outrageous antics we have seen on the right in recent months:

*Congressman Joe Wilson heckling the President of the United States during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

*Extremists shouting down the sick and disabled at town halls across America.

*Misinformed thugs starting fist fights and shouting matches at rally's for better quality health care.

*Fanatics bringing guns to Presidential speeches

*The thinly veiled hate speech rantings of Lou Dobbs on CNN.

"Unity in Movement" will counter those cheap antics by bringing Americans of all ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds to celebrate the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. The participants are people who are actively engaged in making a difference in their communities, and will come representing hundreds more in their families, their churches, their neighborhoods and their communities.

President Obama himself outlined this call for citizenship in his inaugural address:

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and the promise of citizenship."

"Unity in Movement" descends on Washington to fight for progress and change, not disruption and rancor. The events symbolize Americans desire for action. The citizens who will be here are tired of Washington's broken ways and want to be part of new and vibrant solutions to our nation's problems.

People like Adam Ramirez, a sheep shearer who lives in senior housing. He registered more than 100 people to vote in 2008. More important, though, anyone with a broken bike knows they can drop it off at his house, and he'll rebuild it for them.

Or Tu Thomas Hoang, a political science graduate student. He is a member of the Vietamese American Young Leaders Association and volunteers in his Louisiana community devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Or Charles Hun, who emigrated from Korea in 1975, joined the U.S. Army and served in the military for 20 years. He has helped many new immigrants navigate the immigration system, get health care for their children and become economically stable.

Or Gina Owens of the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations. Despite a deep personal loss (her daughter died of a preventable illness because of lack of health insurance,) she keeps on fighting so others won't suffer a similar fate. She says, "I'm sure there are thousands, millions of people out there in Tiffany's situation. We need strong, affordable public programs that everyone can rely on when we need it most."

The word "unity" will be present throughout the conversations being held during the day, because it refers to a belief that in order to enable communities to lead long, prosperous lives, diverse sectors and constituencies must come together to work together.

Our communities want to contribute, participate and build up America and not disrupt, divide or tear down our opponents. We believe in health care reform that provides true universal coverage, reduces costs and increases the quality of care. We also believe comprehensive immigration reform should be a major priority and without it, we can't move forward together as a nation to tackle our major economic and social problems.

For more information check out:

Unity in Movement is being organized by the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its affiliates, the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) and the Korean Resource Center (KRC). The sponsoring organizations include: Center for Community Change (CCC), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), Health Rights Organizing Project (HROP), National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (NWFCO), and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).